Baptist is a term describing individuals belonging to a Baptist church or a Baptist denomination. The name is derived from a conviction that followers of
JesusChrist are commanded to be baptised (by being immersed in water) as a public display of their faith, and thus most adherents reject infant baptism. While the term "Baptist" has its origins with the Anabaptists, and was sometimes viewed as pejorative, the denomination itself is historically linked to the English Dissenteror Separatist or Nonconformismmovements of the 16th century. [; )
* Priesthood of all believers (; )
* Two offices of the church (pastor-elder and deacon) (; Bibleref2|Ephesians|5:23–32; Bibleref2|Colossians|1:18)
Most Baptist traditions believe in the "Four Freedoms" articulated by Baptist historian Walter B. Shurden: [Shurden, Walter B. "The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms." Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 1993.]
* Soul freedom: the soul is competent before God, and capable of making decisions in matters of faith without coercion or compulsion by any larger religious or civil body
* Church freedom: freedom of the local church from outside interference, whether government or civilian (subject only to the law where it does not interfere with the religious teachings and practices of the church)
* Bible freedom: the individual is free to interpret the Bible for himself or herself, using the best tools of scholarship and biblical study available to the individual
* Religious freedom: the individual is free to choose whether to practice their religion, another religion, or no religion;
Separation of church and stateis often called the "civil corollary" of religious freedom
polityof autonomy is closely related to the polity of congregational governance. Just as each Baptist priest with soul competency is equal to all other Baptists in a church, so each church is equal to every other church. No church or ecclesiastical organization has authority over a Baptist church. Churches can properly relate to each other under this polity only through voluntary cooperation, never by any sort of coercion. Furthermore, this Baptist polity calls for freedom from governmental control. [Pinson, William M., Jr. "Trends in Baptist Polity." Baptist History and Heritage Society. Available online: http://www.baptisthistory.org/contissues/pinson.htm]
Beliefs that vary among Baptists
Because of the importance of the priesthood of every believer, the centrality of the freedom of conscience and thought in Baptist theology, and due to the congregational style of church governance, doctrine varies greatly between one Baptist church and another (and among individual Baptists) especially on the following issues:
Doctrine of separation
* Hermeneutical method
* The translation of Scripture (See
* The extent to which missionary boards should be used to support missionaries
* The extent to which non-members may participate in communion services
* The nature of
The Sabbath Debate
A majority of Baptists worship on Sunday, in contrast with the Old Testament tradition of a Saturday Sabbath, and instead following the New Testament tradition that the disciples met on the first day of the week. As would be expected amongst any people who hold to freedom of conscience, there have historically been a small number of Baptists who have held to some form of Sabbatarian doctrine.
There is a small fringe group known as the
Seventh Day Baptists. Some attempt to trace their origins to earlier Anabaptist or pre-Reformation sects however most acknowledge that the denomination was established in the early seventeenth century in England. Seventh Day Baptistsmay be either General or Particular Baptists but they are united in their observance of their day of worship on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. Although the degree to which they observe the Sabbath varies from person to person, from congregation to congregation, there is a consensus within their circles that none should judge the spirituality of another's personal practices.
In the mid-nineteenth century a
Seventh Day Baptisttract eventually led to a large portion of the Adventistmovement to adopt Sabbatarian teachings.
Theological, cultural and political controversies
As with all major denominational groups, Baptists have not escaped theological, cultural and political controversy. Baptists have historically been sensitive to the introduction of theological error (from their perspective) into their groups.
* The older Baptist associations of Europe, Canada, Australia and the northern United States have assimilated influences of different schools of thought, but not without major debate and schisms.
* In England,
Charles Haddon Spurgeonfought against what he saw as challenges to his strongly conservative point of view in the Downgrade Controversy.
* As part of the continuing
fundamentalist/liberal controversy within the Northern Baptist Convention, two new associations of conservative Baptists were formed—the General Association of Regular Baptist Churchesin 1932 and the Conservative Baptist Association of Americain 1947.
Landmarkism, with its emphasis on ecclesiastical separation and doctrinal rigidity and its cultural foundation in the South, deterred Southern Baptists from being influenced as strongly by aberrant points of view as were the Baptists in the northern United States and other countries. Old Landmarkism held to the traditional Baptist historical consciousness that traced Baptists through dissenters— Donatists, Cathari—back to Jesus, Jordan(although it is not believed that ALL Donatists, Cathari, etc.were Baptist theologically) and the "First Baptist Church" of Jerusalem. Popular Landmarkism contributed to a historical consciousness implicit in the idea that Baptists were an extension of the New Testament community, perpetuating the true church in every age. [Leonard, Bill J. "Historical Consciousness and Baptists in the South: Owning and Disowning a Tradition." "Proceedings of American Academy of Religion 2002 Annual Meeting."]
* Beginning in the 1980s, there was a concerted effort among a determined group of theologically orthodox Southern Baptists to purge
modernisttheological influence from its seminaries. This highly publicized SBC Conservative Resurgence/Fundamentalist Takeoveroccasioned two schisms of theologically modernistBaptist churches: the Cooperative Baptist Fellowshipand the Alliance of Baptists.
There are two main views about the origins of the Baptists: Baptist origins in the 16th and 17th centuries and Baptist perpetuity.
Viewpoint: Baptist origins in the 16th and 17th centuries
Some see the Baptists as the descendants of the 16th century
Anabaptists (which some view as a product of the Protestant Reformationand others view as a continuation of the older pre-Reformation non-Catholic churches). Johannes Warns states that the first independent Baptist Church was that at Augsburg, Germany, in about 1524.Warns, Johannes. "Baptism", tr. by G. H. Lang, The Paternoster Press, London, 1957] Others see the Baptists as a separation from the Church of Englandin the early 1600s.McBeth, Leon. “Baptist Beginnings.” Baptist History and Heritage Society. Available online: [http://www.baptisthistory.org/baptistbeginnings.htm http://www.baptisthistory.org/baptistbeginnings.htm] (Accessed 10/19/2007)] Puritanseparatists John Smythand Thomas Helwysare acknowledged by numerous historians as key founders of the modern Baptist denomination. The early Baptists were divided into General Baptists who were Arminianin theology, and Particular Baptists who were Calvinistic in theology. [cite web|url=http://atheism.about.com/od/baptistssouthernbaptists/a/baptisthistory.htm|title=Baptist Christianity: Origins & Development of Baptist, Southern Baptist Beliefs] [cite web|url=http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02278a.htm|title=Baptists|publisher=Catholic Encyclopedia] [cite web|url=http://www.baptisthistory.org/contissues/briggs.htm|title=Baptist Origins|publisher=Baptist History and Heritage Society]
According to Baptist historian H. Leon McBeth, Baptists, as a distinct denomination, originated in England in a time of intense religious reform. McBeth writes, “Our best historical evidence says that Baptists came into existence in England in the early seventeenth century. They apparently emerged out of the Puritan-Separatist movement in the Church of England.”
Viewpoint: Baptist perpetuity
The Baptist perpetuity view (also known as Baptist succession) holds that the church founded by Christ in Jerusalem was Baptist in character and that like churches have had perpetual existence from the days of Christ to the present. This view is theologically based on Bibleref2|Matthew|16:18, where Jesus is speaking to Peter, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter (Πέτρος [StrongGreek|4074] ), and upon this rock (πέτρα [StrongGreek|4073] ) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," as well as Jesus' commission and promise to be with His followers as they carried on his ministry, "even unto the end of the world." [cite book |author=Duncan, William Cecil |title=A Brief History of the Baptists and Their Distinctive Principles and Practices, from the "Beginning of the Gospel" to the Present Time |location=New York |publisher=Edward H. Fletcher |year=1855 |url=http://books.google.com/books?id=KLljCC9KXn8C |accessdate=2007-10-19]
The Baptist perpetuity view sees Baptists as separate from
Catholicismand other religious denominations and considers that the Baptist movement predates the Catholic church and is therefore not part of the Protestant Reformation. [cite web |author=Brong, Rosco |title=Ten Bible Proofs of Baptist Perpetuity |publisher=Word of Truth |url=http://www.landmarktruth.com/articles_view.asp?columnid=527&articleid=4440 |accessdate=2007-10-19]
J. M. Carroll's "
The Trail of Blood" booklet, published in 1931, has been a popular writing presenting the successionist view, pointing to groups such as the Montanists, Novatianists, Donatists, Paulicians, Albigensians, Catharists, Waldenses, and Anabaptists, as predecessors to contemporary Baptists.cite web |author=Carroll, J.M. |title=The Trail of Blood |url=http://www.landmarktruth.com/images/60657/TrailofBlood.pdf |accessdate=2007-10-19] Baptist historian John T. Christian writes in the introduction to his "History of the Baptists": "I have throughout pursued the scientific method of investigation, and I have let the facts speak for themselves. I have no question in my own mind that there has been a historical succession of Baptists from the days of Christ to the present time." [cite book |author=Christian, John T |title=A History of the Baptists |publisher=Broadman Press |year=vol.1, 1922; vol.2, 1926 |url=http://www.reformedreader.org/history/christian/ahob1/ahobp.htm] Other Baptist historians holding the perpetuity view are Thomas Armitage, G.H. Orchard, and David Benedict.
Those holding the perpetuity view of Baptist history can be basically divided into two categories: those who hold that there is a direct succession from one church to the next (most commonly identified with
Landmarkism), and those who hold that while the Baptist practices and churches continued, they may have originated independently of any previously existing church.
While there is no direct evidence to support "Landmarkism" or "Successionism" in church history, the modern Baptist movement owes its theological heritage to the earlier "Frei Kirche" movement as embodied in the writings of
Balthasar Hubmaier, an early Anabaptist theologian, who was martyred for his beliefs on the rite of baptism in the early days of the Protestant Reformation. [cite book |Schreiner, Thomas R. and Shawn D. Wright |title=Believer's Baptism:Sign of the New Covenant in Christ |publisher=B&H Publishing Group |year=2007 |pages=189-206 |isbn=0805432493] No doubt, the various beliefs of Baptists can be "discovered" through independent study; however, church history does not seem to support the notion that movements began ad hoc or in a vacuum. While the Southern Baptist Convention's stand (as articulated by McBeth) is that the modern Baptist movement is a part of the larger Protestant movement, that does not automatically delete the earlier influences of others who published and advocated some or all of the distinctive views that identify modern Baptists. The Baptist movement is in the larger context of theological movements of dissent since the official birth of the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Nicea.
Etymology of "Baptist"
Baptist comes from the Greek word βαπτιστής ("baptistés," "baptist," also used to describe John the Baptist), which is related to the verb βαπτίζω ("baptízo," "to baptize, wash, dip, immerse"), and the
Latin"baptista," and is in direct connection to "the baptizer," John the Baptist.
first nameit has been used in Europefrom the twelfth century also as Baptiste, Jan-Baptiste, Jean-Baptiste, John-Baptist; and in the Netherlands at least since the seventeenth century, often in combinations like Jan Baptist or Johannes Baptist.As a last nameit has been used since the thirteenth century. Other variations also commonly used are Baptiste, Baptista, Battiste, Battista.
Anabaptistsin England were called Baptists as early as 1569. [See volume one, chapter 15, pages 205-206 of John T. Christian's "History of the Baptists" published by Broadman Press. Available online: http://www.reformedreader.org/history/christian/ahob1/ahobp.htm]
Questions of labelling
Some Baptists object to the application of the labels "
Protestant, denomination, Evangelical" and even "Baptist" to themselves or their churches, while others accept those labels. Due to their rejection of their congregationalist roots, many traditional Baptists (sometimes referred to as Northern Baptists) do not consider the Southern Baptist congregation (a quasi-episcopal organization) to be Baptists at all.fact |date=August 2008
Some who reject the label "Baptist" prefer to be labelled as Christians who attend Baptist churches. Also, a recent trend (most common among
megachurchesand those embracing the "seeker movement") is to eliminate "Baptist" from the church name, as it is perceived to be a "barrier" to reaching persons who have negative views of Baptists, whether they be of a different church background or none. These churches typically include the word "Community" or other non-religious or denominational terms in their church name.
Conversely, others accept the label "Baptist" because they identify with the distinctives they consider to be uniquely Baptist. They believe those who are removing the name "Baptist" from their churches are "compromising with the world" to attract more members. However, there are other church groups that hold to the beliefs listed above, that have never been known by the label "Baptist," and also believe that these beliefs are not exclusive to the "Baptist" denomination.
The label "
Protestant" is rejected by some Baptists (primarily those in the Landmark movement) because in their view Baptists have existed separately since the early church days. Those holding this view maintain that Baptists have never been a part of the Roman Catholic Church, and as such, Baptists are not "protesting" against Catholicism. Further, they point out that Baptists have no direct connection to any of the Reformationists like Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli. Other Baptists accept the "Protestant" label as a demographic concept that describes churches who share similar theologies of " sola scriptura, sola fide," the priesthood of all believersand other positions that Luther, Calvin and other traditional reformers held in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church in the 1500s.
The label "denomination" is rejected by some because of the local autonomous governance system used by Baptist churches. Being a denomination is viewed by them as having a hierarchy that substitutes for the Roman Catholic Church. Another reason for the rejection of the label is the influence of the Restoration period on Baptist churches, which emphasized a tearing down of denominational barriers. Other Baptists accept the label, feeling that it does not carry a negative connotation but rather is merely a synonym for a Christian or religious group with common beliefs, organized in a cooperative manner to spread its beliefs worldwide.
The label "Evangelical" is rejected by some fundamentalist Baptists who consider the term to describe a theological position that in their view is not fundamentalist enough, and conversely is also rejected by some liberal Baptists who consider the term to describe a theological position that in their view is too conservative. It is accepted by moderate Baptists who identify with the revival in the United States in the 1700s known as the
First Great Awakening. Conversely, some Evangelicals reject the label fundamentalist, believing it to describe a theological position that they consider too extreme and legalistic.
* Gavins; Raymond. "The Perils and Prospects of Southern Black Leadership: Gordon Blaine Hancock, 1884–1970" Duke University Press, 1977.
* Harrison, Paul M. "Authority and Power in the Free Church Tradition: A Social Case Study of the American Baptist Convention" Princeton University Press, 1959.
* Harvey, Paul. "Redeeming the South: Religious Cultures and Racial Identities among Southern Baptists, 1865–1925" University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
* Heyrman, Christine Leigh. "Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt" (1997).
* Isaac, Rhy. "Evangelical Revolt: The Nature of the Baptists' Challenge to the Traditional Order in Virginia, 1765 to 1775," "William and Mary Quarterly," 3d ser., XXXI (July 1974), 345–68.
* Leonard, Bill J. "Baptist Ways: A History" (2003), comprehensive international history
* McBeth, H. Leon, (ed.) "A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage" (1990), primary sources for Baptist history.
* McGlothlin, W. J. (ed.) "Baptist Confessions of Faith." Philadelphia: The American Baptist Publication Society, 1911.
* Pitts, Walter F. "Old Ship of Zion: The Afro-Baptist Ritual in the African Diaspora" Oxford University Press, 1996.
* Rawlyk, George. "Champions of the Truth: Fundamentalism, Modernism, and the Maritime Baptists" (1990), Canada.
* Spangler, Jewel L. "Becoming Baptists: Conversion in Colonial and Early National Virginia" "Journal of Southern History." Volume: 67. Issue: 2. 2001. pp 243+
* Stringer, Phil. "The Faithful Baptist Witness," Landmark Baptist Press, 1998.
* Torbet, Robert G. "A History of the Baptists," Judson Press, 1950.
* Underhill, Edward B. (ed.). "Confessions of Faith and Other Documents of the Baptist Churches of England in the 17th century." London: The Hanserd Knollys Society, 1854.
* Underwood, A. C. "A History of the English Baptists." London: Kingsgate Press, 1947.
* Wills, Gregory A. "Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South, 1785–1900," Oxford.
* List of Baptist Associations, Conventions and sub-groupings
Baptists and bootleggers[http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/counterproductive counterproductive] regulation
* List of famous Baptists
Baptist World Alliance
The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship
General baptist links
* [http://www.abpnews.com/ Associated Baptist Press]
* [http://bmats.edu/baptamer.pdf Baptist Groups in America] by James C. Blaylock, Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary, Jacksonville, Texas. 2005.
* [http://www.baptisthistory.org/ Baptist History and Heritage Society]
* [http://www.bjconline.org/ Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty]
* [http://www.baptistlife.com/ BaptistLife.Com]
* [http://www.baptistmessenger.com Baptist Messenger]
* [http://www.bpnews.net/ Baptist Press]
* [http://www.centerforbaptiststudies.org/ Center for Baptist Studies]
* [http://www.baptistbecause.com/ Doctrinal and Historical Information on Baptists]
* [http://www.valpo.edu/geomet/pics/geo200/religion/baptist.gifMap of USA showing Percentage of Baptist Population in each county]
* [http://www.onlinebaptist.com/ Online Baptist]
* [http://www.seventhdaybaptist.org/ Seventh Day Baptist Churches] - United States and Canada
* [http://www.baptiststudiesonline.com/ Various resources and services, including "The Journal of Baptist Studies," a peer-reviewed, electronic journal]
* [http://www.ebaptists.org/ Information about the Enterprise Association of Regular Baptist Churches of Jesus Christ]
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